The Writings of an Apostle
Paul wrote a total of thirteen epistles, fourteen if you count Hebrews (no author named). These epistles were later canonized as being divinely inspired as Holy Scripture. Paul wrote to the newly founded churches across Greece and Asia Minor, as well as Rome. There were many issues in the early Church that needed addressed. As an apostle, Paul wrote as a spiritual father, caring for his children.
Winds of doctrine were blowing through these churches. False teachers were on the prowl, seeking to devour these new converts. Paul’s writings were passed from church to church as a compass to keep them on the right track.
Today, we are blessed to have the writings of the greatest apostle to ever live. The Pauline revelation is the heart of the New Testament. He brought the deep truths of God out in an understandable way. Paul was a master of the Greek language. He could have written in classical Greek, but instead chose Koine Greek, the language of the people. Though easy to understand, Paul’s writings were weighty and hard to discern without the Holy Spirit’s help. Listen to Peter’s words concerning Paul’s writings:
2 Peter 3:15-16
And consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.
Though apostles today cannot write divinely inspired Scripture, it is still vital for an apostle to weld the power of the pen. His teachings and testimony should be recorded for the continuing blessing of generations to come.
The Hardships of an Apostle
The book of 2 Corinthians offers us a unique peer into the personal life and hardships of the apostle Paul. It was extremely difficult for the apostle to the Gentiles. But God was always faithful to deliver him in times of trouble. Let him who thinks apostleship is an easy road, one to be desired, consider the following from just one of Paul’s epistles, 2 Corinthians:
For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. (2 Corinthians 1:8)
We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)
In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love (2 Corinthians 6:5-6)
For indeed, when we came to Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears. (2 Corinthians 7:5)
Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:23-28)
And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. (2 Corinthians 12:7)
Paul’s hardships served only to make him greater. Some say that he had to suffer because he had no faith. This is ridiculous thinking. Paul did not operate in the “cadillac faith” that some modern prosperity preachers teach. Paul was a living example of faith in everything he did. Paul was the greatest apostle of all because he made himself the least. The following passage portrays the heart of Paul throughout his life, ministry, and death as a martyr:
But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.